South African politician says ruling party plays race card 2 decades after end of apartheid

An opposition leader in South Africa says race remains a "powerful trigger" in politics more than 20 years after the country's first all-race elections ended white racist rule.

Politician Mmusi Maimane said Monday that the ruling African National Congress, dominant since the 1994 elections that saw Nelson Mandela elected as president, had sought to portray him as a black stooge of an opposition party with white liberal roots.

Maimane, leader of the parliamentary caucus of the opposition Democratic Alliance, referred to a reported comment last year by a Cabinet minister who called him a "hired native."

Maimane was speaking to foreign journalists in Johannesburg.

In a weekend speech, President Jacob Zuma said South Africa had defeated "the demon of institutionalized racism and apartheid" and was committed to a non-racial society.